A desire to see new places and meet new people attracts many nurses to travel positions. A shortage of nurses nationwide has fueled demand, and many hospitals are willing to pay nurses’ travel and living expenses to gain nurse specialization and experience.
Registered nurse Kim Walker lives in Hamilton, Ala., but has spent much of the past four years in the transplant intensive care unit at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, Okla.
She owns a home in Alabama but rents a duplex in Oklahoma City during her contracts, which generally last 13 weeks.
“The benefit to being a travel nurse is that you can be somewhere for three months, and if you aren’t happy with it, you can go,” said Walker, 35. “You also have the benefit of seeing the country. That’s a reason travel nurses travel, to see things you haven’t seen before.”
Walker has friends who have worked on both coasts and in exotic locations such as the Virgin Islands. Some even take their spouses and children with them.
Travel nurses also have played a key role in responding to the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
Like many travel nurses, Walker works through an agency that places nurses with providers.
“There’s a huge need out there right now throughout the country for travel nurses,” said Angie Bass, operations manager for the Oklahoma City office of Medical Staffing Network.
She said pay rates vary by contract, but assignments can be lucrative and come with perks.
“You can experience different cultures and climates,” she said. “Each hospital is completely different. The experience you gain is monumental.”
Travel nurses must be licensed in the state where they’ll work. For nurses coming to Oklahoma, that process typically takes two or three weeks, Bass said.